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do whiteheads smell

Do Whiteheads Smell and Why? Find Out Here

You probably hate those pesky little whiteheads that lurk below the surface of your skin around your body, face or even on your nose. Sometimes you decide to pop them, and ugh, that smell! Then you hate them even more!

why do whiteheads smell

Yes, believe it or not, whiteheads can smell. Even though this occurance isn't that common, it isn't entirely impossible either. Read further to understand the reasons behind smelly whiteheads and what you can do about this unpleasant situation.

Why do Whiteheads Stink?

Your body has natural oils that lubricate your skin and hair to keep it healthy. The pores on your face can get clogged, which can then lead to various kinds of pimples, including whiteheads that can sometimes even produce an unpleasant odor.

Whiteheads are a type of acne, which is an inflammatory skin condition that occurs when pores get clogged with dead skin cells and oil your body naturally produces. But, dead skin cells and sebum are not the only things that can get trapped in the pores; bacteria can too

When bacteria enters your pores, it produces an inflammatory response in your body that results in the creation of pus. In simple words, pus is the result of bacteria feeding on your dead skin and sebum, and sometimes, when squeezed out, it can smell really bad. 

This odour isn't always noticeable in small, tiny lesions such as whiteheads since they don't usually contain large amounts of pus. You might notice more odor with larger types of acne that contain higher concentrations of odor-emitting bacteria and more pus.

In any case, if you notice a certain smell appearing frequently, it may indicate more serious skin problems. In such cases, it is best to schedule an appointment with your dermatologist, who can perform a thorough examination and help you figure out what's wrong.

Why do White Heads Smell Like Cheese?

Cheese has that distinct smell because of bacteria. It is no different when it comes to your acne. As bacteria multiply, they produce different odors. When bacteria feed on substances in your pores, they produce byproducts that can smell really bad.

Essentially, bacteria poop, and their poop can have various kinds of smells, from those similar to your body odor to those similar to cheese. In a nutshell, if your whiteheads smell like cheese, it's because of bacteria. 

What Does a Smelly Whitehead Mean?

If your whiteheads smell bad, it is usually a sign of an infection. What actually smells is pus inside the whiteheads, and pus is your immune system's response to an infection. 

When your body detects infection-causing bacteria or fungi, it directs white blood cells to accumulate quickly in the affected area, and this results in pus. This means that besides sebum and dead skin cells, pus can also contain dead bacteria.

A bacterium called Pseudomonas aeruginosa (P. aeruginosa) can result in infections that cause particularly foul-smelling pus.

foul smelling whiteheads

How do you Get Rid of Smelly Whiteheads?

Methods for getting rid of smelly whiteheads are no different from other methods for treating "normal" whiteheads and acne in general. Essentially, acne can be treated either externally (which involves topical application of anti-acne products) or internally (which involves the use of drugs).

Some common topical treatments for whiteheads include benzoyl peroxide, retinoids, salicylic acid, or topical antibiotics such as clindamycin. Systemic or internal treatments may include oral retinoids and antibiotics, but also hormonal contraceptives and even corticosteroids.

Combination treatments that target multiple mechanisms of acne development by combining topical treatments with oral medication often prove to be pretty effective.

 However, you should always consult your doctor before using any of these treatments, since many of them are powerful antibiotics or anti-inflammatory medications that you should not be using on your own. A doctor will know the best course of action (depending on the cause of the infection), be it a course of antibiotics or even a minor surgery.

How to Prevent Smelly Whiteheads?

Preventing whiteheads, including the smelly ones, can be difficult, especially for women during monthly hormonal changes. But, there are some things that can help you keep them under control.

Wash your face with warm water and a mild cleanser. Don't use water that is too hot or too cold  and avoid further irritating your skin with harsh products like scrubs or exfoliants; use a mild cleanser instead and lukewarm water instead.

Moisturize regularly. This will keep your skin hydrated, and hydrated skin is more resistant to all sorts of damage, including acne.

When selecting makeup or skincare products, pick those that are non-comedogenic. These products don't contain any pore-blocking ingredients and shouldn't cause further breakouts with even more whiteheads.

Keep your hair clean and keep hair products, like gels and sprays, away from your face if you don't want more problems. 

Don't touch your face and try to avoid touching or squeezing your whiteheads, as it can cause further irritation and spread the infection.

The Bottom Line

Whiteheads, as well as any other kind of acne, can smell bad. The odor can vary in intensity and can be very unpleasant such as the smell of cheese. In most cases of acne odor, the culprits are the accumulated bacteria and/or their byproducts. The smell means that there is an infection and certain bacteria produce worse smells than others.

Options to get rid of those smelly whiteheads can involve topical treatments or even medication. Sometimes a combination of oral and topical treatments gives the best results, which is something your doctor may prescribe.

When it comes to prevention, there's only so much you can do. It all basically comes down to practicing good personal hygiene, avoiding comedogenic products, and staying away from damaging habits that can result in the spread of the infection and eventually more whiteheads (such as popping and squeezing). 

If the pus is extremely pungent and smells foul, it is always best to see a doctor who will know the best ways to treat the issue. 

Igor Marcikic

I've struggled with acne and oily skin for the better part of my life. Along the way, I've picked up some valuable information, tips, and tricks, which helped me manage my "situation." This website is a way of giving back and trying to help others like me! Enjoy your stay, and feel free to share your thoughts in the comments section.